Posted May 29 2018, 2:39 pm

Finishing the manuscript. It’s the big deal, right? The thing we all, every one of us, have to accomplish if we want to get published.

But getting from “Once upon a . . . ” to “. . . happily ever after!” takes some work. 

One school of thought is the daily goal. This daily goal is often tied to word count. As any survivor of NaNoWriMo can tell you, dedicating a period of time to hitting a specific word count each and every day can be:

  1. exhilirating
  2. exhausting
  3. exciting
  4. excruciating
  5. exquisite
  6. all of the above, probably in that order

But it’s also REWARDING, both when you meet the daily word count and when you meet that final goal. Rewards make our brains happy and inspire us to keep doing The Thing that gave us the reward last time.

(I strongly advise rewards that are visible. Last year, I bought a couple of packets of shiny, hologram-sparkly Avenger stickers, and made a little word count calendar. Each week, if I’d hit word count every day, I earned another Avenger. The little reward sounds inconsequential, but I assure you, it works — so long as it’s tied to something that you feel is a reward.)

There are plenty of opportunities to take part in word-count challenges. TARA has local word-count related goals, like our Book Challenge, which asks the writer to submit a completed 40,000-word manuscript by the end of the year. (SIGN UP BY JUNE 30!). And some TARA writers are starting a speed-writing group which focuses on pages complete instead of words written (information was sent out over the Loop). And NaNoWriMo runs Camp NaNoWriMo sessions in April and July which are more flexible than the famed 50,000-word November sprint. 

There are also some online tools you can use to set and meet goals. For those who are fantasy-minded, Habitica asks you to set and meet habits, thus earning fantasy items. You can use Habitica to establish any habit, including setting and meeting a daily writing goal. Another site that is also fantasy-focused, but specifically tied to writing, is 4theWords, which encourages daily writing and allows members to set up writing sprints to meet goals (e.g., “If I write 100 words in the next 20 minutes, I can defeat this monster”). Both sites have a community aspect. Habitica can be used for free; 4theWords has a free trial period, after which you must subscribe.

Let me be the first to say that these kinds of efforts are fantastic. They work for many writers — particularly folks who like the accountability and the sense of community (waves hand). But if the goals are too intense, this kind of writing can be difficult to sustain over a long haul (like, say, a career). When you aren’t hitting those daily deadlines, it can be make you feel like you aren’t successful, which can be demoralizing.

Worse, if you’re a pantser like me, it can be difficult to reconcile your need to sustain word count with your need to send 5,000 words to the compost heap every once in a while. You needed to write them, but you don’t need them in your manuscript now… but what does that mean for your word count goal?

So I wanted to also give you this: Courtney Milan (writer of historical and contemporary new adult series) tweeted a thread about rediscovering joy in writing, and it resonated with me. She talks about how we treat ourselves as writers, and how we can better set expectations so that we can reward ourselves for making progress, rather than punishing ourselves for writing not quite enough.

The long and short of it is: your goals should walk the line between challenging and kind. Make sure you give yourself rewards and enough mental space to breathe and create!



4 responses to “Goaaaaaaaal!”

  1. Nelson Renee says:

    Great piece! And very timely.

    The book challenge is still accepting entries until June 30th, and the accountability aspect is fairly relaxed: report in every week whether you managed words or not. The end game is a completed 40k manuscript by December. Anyone interested?

    🙂 Renee

  2. Shirley Goldberg says:

    Thank you and whew…I have finished my manuscript and Lynn Carmer is going to read it. Now, though, I must go forth and market. I will admit to finding the prospect of marketing more daunting than writing.

  3. Connie Taxdal says:

    Thank you for not only the timely article but for the great references, too.

  4. Alyssa Henderson says:

    So true. Thank you posting 🙂

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